When temperatures plunged well below zero last weekend, a Cheyenne a church flung open its doors to about 30 homeless people, some of them with ashen frostbite already bubbling on their hands.
This is the second time True Vine Community Church opened its building on Central Avenue to Cheyenne’s homeless, Sarah Boyd, who co-pastors the church with her husband Ed Boyd, told Cowboy State Daily in a Tuesday interview. The first time was last year.
A handful of transient deaths in Wyoming’s capital city in the winter of 2020-21 helped spark this tradition, Sarah said.
“We decided as a congregation that wouldn’t happen again,” said Sarah.
Around that time, the local Comea shelter reached out to the community for help with its overflow during the cold snaps.
This time, True Vine opened Friday at 6 p.m. and eight people trickled inside — a meager start.
Twelve church members and about 10 community volunteers helped feed and care for everyone. They set up the worship center with air mattresses for “ladies” and the connection room with fold-down couches for “gentlemen,” Sarah said.
Some church workers went hunting for more people they could help.
“A few of us had gotten into our vehicles and we went out looking to see if we could find any under bridges and the (known) areas,” said Ed. “We couldn’t see any of them.”
The church and some of its members announced the warm place on Facebook to get the word out.
The next night, Saturday, 17 people stayed in the church. Workers went out hunting once again, and this time they found some stragglers, Ed said.
Sarah said the Cheyenne Police Department brought two more. The Laramie County Sheriff’s Department also had deputies on the lookout, she added.
One man came in with frostbitten feet Saturday night and “we took care of him,” said Ed.
This Is Church Day
On Sunday morning the Boyds, along with a staff that had worked at the church overnight, cooked breakfast for everyone. They also had visitors help with the chores: cleaning up after the meal, moving things around to get ready for church.
The worship team helped oversee that project, while “the rest of us” took care of transients who needed care, Ed said.
Then they gave the visitors a choice: Go out and do something or stay for church.
Many decided to stay. Some chose to go out and run errands. The sermon that morning was a guest message by a missions group that had been in Thailand sharing its faith and caring for impoverished people.
The guest speaker said people should incorporate their own histories — “wherever we come from” into reaching others, said Sarah. “Which was perfect.”
After church, everyone had a banquet with ham and mashed potatoes. Ed called it a Thanksgiving dinner.
Sunday night, 17 people came to stay in the church building, which is on the smaller side and is a “Quonset hut church,” said Ed. Monday night, they had 19 visitors.
Altogether, four people with frostbite came in over the course of the weekend.
“One of them came in, showed me his hands and we took him right away to the hospital to get him taken care of,” Ed said. “Then we picked him up and brought him back.”
Another couple of frostbitten wanderers had already sought treatment at the hospital before arriving at True Vine, Sarah added.
Proud To Be Here
The Boyds had dispatched email messages through pastor teams, letting people know their goal for that weekend.
People started asking how they could help and what they could bring. Food, clothes, jackets and socks poured into the church from concerned people in Cheyenne.
“Just amazing support from Cheyenne, and everybody just taking care of everybody during this storm,” said Sarah. “It made me proud to be in Wyoming.”
“And Cheyenne,” added Ed.
Sarah said they also worked with Pastor Steve Olsen of Revive the Nations Ministries. “He was our counterpart on this.”
On Tuesday when True Vine sent everyone back out into town, the staffers and volunteers were able to pack lunches to send with them.
Not Much Ruckus
There wasn’t much ruckus over the weekend.
Sarah said a police officer came for “advisement” once on how to handle a situation, but it was a case of “people that couldn’t settle down.”
The police park in front of True Vine often because it’s a central location for them to finish their reports. But they heightened their awareness toward it over the weekend in light of the big sleepover, Sarah said.
Some visitors left early.
“They weren’t able to settle down and go to sleep,” said Sarah. “Kind of a hard thing for them. They’re used to the streets, so there was just some rotating around.”
But when people would leave, the church sent them away with gloves, boots and an extra blanket, “so the wind wouldn’t rip through them while they were walking,” she said.
‘Like You Could Be Someone Again’
During a follow-up call to Sarah Boyd on Wednesday, one of the visitors was back at the church again getting food from its food pantry.
Saying he could lose some of his support if people knew he talked to the press, the man declined to give his name to Cowboy State Daily. But he said he was grateful to True Vine and those who helped with the weekend effort.
“Here at the church, they don’t treat you like you’re a piece of crap. They treat you like you’re a human being, like you could be someone again,” he said. “They did a lot for us.”
The man said he’s been homeless in Cheyenne for seven winters. A recreational drug user in his youth, he decided to try methamphetamine one night in his hometown of Casper once his kids were grown.
He thought he’d be able to kick meth like he’d kicked a cocaine addiction when he was younger. He was wrong.
He came to Cheyenne to escape Casper, where he was “in deep,” he said. He ended up in jail, then homeless.
“My fault. I caused it all,” he said. He’s getting older now and is determined to get off the streets. The man said he hopes a friend with an extra camper will soon house him.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.